A novel by Anna Jarzab
(2013, Random House) Book 1 of the Many Worlds Trilogy
Kidnapped to another timeline to serve as a substitute until the
royal government finds the real princess, a young woman finds herself
in the middle of a power struggle that involves different nations, and
factions within the United Commonwealth.
Read June 27th to July
9th, 2017 in hardcover
It took me a bit of time to get into the
concept, but once I did, I quite enjoyed this adventure. The author has
presented a plausible world with interesting characters, and I grew to
like Sasha, Thomas, and Callum. The love triangle was well presented,
and I felt myself cheer for both couplings, though I thought Sasha felt
too little remorse about leading both men on.
dynamics are what really drive this story. Sasha's relationship with
Thomas, her remorseful kidnapper, goes through many ups and downs.
However, the teen aspect didn't work as well for me, but maybe that's
because I'm so far out of my teens now.
The story starts in a
whirlwind of the kidnapping. It seemed odd to me that Grant (even the
imposter), who was eighteen compared to Sasha's sixteen, would so
completely ignore his friends, such that they wouldn't even come out to
tease him at the prom about taking this younger bookworm girl. However,
the story is about Sasha, and the wonderful night she had at the prom,
just to be taken against her will to a parallel universe.
parallel universe idea has been around for a long time, and it's even
mentioned earlier in the story by the physicist grandfather (both
Sasha's parents were physicists, too). This one, called Aurora (because
Earth's magnetic field is so much weaker that aurorae can be seen all
the way south to New York on a nightly basis), differs in essence by the
fact that George Washington was killed in the Revolutionary War, rather
than going on to become the President of the United States. In Aurora,
there is no USA, but there is a Royal Commonwealth with subject states,
and then the enemy Farnham in the western part of North America.
Thomas is an agent of the King's Elite Service (KES), whose analog is
Grant from Sasha's universe. Analogs are lookalikes in different
universes. I'm not keen on the science aspect of the analog, that the
universe organizes itself into patterns, so even genetics are less
important -people who look alike appear in many universes, though
they'll have vastly different personalities, and even different
Sasha objects to being taken to Aurora, and manages
to escape Thomas right from the start, from the trunk of his vehicle. At
this point, I thought the world was too similar to our own, despite the
Liberatas, with its cars and run-down Chicago equivalent, that it
wouldn't be too interesting. And the physical world of Aurora is
probably the least interesting part of the story, maybe because of that.
Things greatly improved once Sasha was brought to the Citadel and the
Tower, where she meets the General, and learns about how Princess
Juliana was kidnapped by the Liberatas.
Except that we the
readers are privy to Juliana's thoughts at various points in the story,
and we know that she arranged her escape, not kidnapping, in order to
avoid getting married to the son of the Queen of Farnham.
the way the author changed the tone of the story by shifting from
Sasha's first-person exchange to the visions of Juliana, and finally to
the outside perspective of Thomas, both of which were described
third-person. It was a different way of telling the story, which was
particularly interesting in that it allows the reader to see what's
happening outside the first-person perspective.
Under threat of
death, Sasha is forced to impersonate Juliana in her day-to-day life. In
essence, this means visiting the paralyzed and incoherent king (the real
Juliana thinks the General was behind the assassination attempt),
planning the wedding with the Queen, doing a televised interview, and
interacting with her staff. Sasha manages to take it all in stride,
aside from stressing a lot. Nobody questions her, which is probably
realistic given her position of power and her strong-willed nature.
At a dinner in her honor, she gets an allergic reaction to
chocolate, one of the major differences between her and Juliana, which
is treated in the same way -somebody offers an explanation, to which
everybody else nods and thinks it makes sense, even though it's certain
nobody's ever heard of this phenomenon before -spontaneous allergies.
But it's the way people look up to authority, and if Dr. Moss says it's
so, then it must be true.
The majority of the story is based on
the relationship between Sasha and Thomas. There's a native infatuation
between them even before the story starts. Sasha knows who Grant is, but
it's doubtful that he even knows her name (though by the end, it's clear
he knows her face). Thomas is also in love with Juliana, though he won't
admit it to himself. So they have a rocky up and down relationship,
where Sasha responds to every mistake by slighting him and giving him
the silent treatment. While this gets fatiguing, it's probably
realistic. Thomas, at least, wants to talk it out, explaining how he had
no choice about kidnapping her (due to the General), that he didn't lie
about his parents being dead (though the General adopted him), and so
on. In the end, the two of them realize that they're in love, and they
start making out.
The love triangle comes into play when Prince
Callum, from Farnham, arrives. As Sasha notes, it would be so much better
if he wasn't so handsome and easy to like. In fact, in Sasha's original
universe, he's an actor. They hit it off right away, as he's nervous,
and has never even been out of his castle, so she has lots to show and
tell him. They also fall in love. Callum reminds me of Peeta from the
Hunger Games, as he's introverted, thinks that the Princess is so much
better than him, and has admired her from afar pretty much all his life.
After a bomb attack at a gala concert, they are removed to a
beach resort for their protection. Callum is a smart guy, and he can see
that Thomas and Sasha (whom he thinks is Juliana) have feelings for each
other. But she denies it, and Callum initiates a kiss, which she doesn't
deny. She doesn't even think about Thomas when she's kissing him, only
getting cold feet when she realizes that Callum wouldn't mind taking
their relationship further (especially since they'll be married in a few
days anyway). When she later goes off to make out with Thomas (for
hours? is this a teenage thing?) she doesn't think twice about Callum.
Callum figures out the king's ravings, and they head back to the
castle; Thomas has been recalled and confined-to-quarters for getting
romantically attached to his charge. Callum and Sasha get unprecedented
free reign around the castle as they try out the king's code to a couple
of doors. Where are there bodyguards? Where is Gloria, with her
schedule? Is nobody else going through the corridors, protecting the
Queen's bedroom and the king's office? They felt like giddy teenagers,
which is what they are, despite their royal positions. Still, it felt
grossly out of place.
They find some secret files in the king's
safe (fortunately he used the same passcode for the safe as for the
door) relating to the the Many Worlds project, but it raises more
questions. Eventually, the General tells Sasha to poison Callum, enough
so that the boy can't be extracted when he declares war on Farnham and holds
the prince hostage.
The backstory gets more complicated when
Sasha revealed to Thomas and Dr. Moss that's she's been having visions
about Juliana all her life. They use her fear of heights to release more
visions, and Dr. Moss reveals that Sasha's father was from Aurora's
universe, sent to Earth to sabotage the research into alternate
universes, because the General thinks war is inevitable between them.
Incidentally, I think the mysterious Dr. March is Moss' analog from
another universe, perhaps Earth.
The climax comes when Callum
secretly calls for help just before Sasha poisons him (after telling him
about it), and in the ambulance they are rescued by Farnham secret
service, and brought back to Callum's castle. In an unexpected twist,
the queen puts Sasha in prison, where Grant has been staying miserably
for the last week or more.
I can't figure out how Thomas comes
to Farnham and breaks into the deepest cell. His explanation that he
"knows people" in the castle sounds more like a cop-out by the author.
However, the scenes in the cell, with Thomas, Grant, Sasha, Lucas and
Juliana, work well. Sasha is held in the alternate universe by her
tether (also the name of the second book in the series). Otherwise, if
she touched her analog, she would have been sent back to her home
universe. Grant punches Thomas, which sends Grant back home. Lucas,
Thomas' brother who is secretly working for the Liberatas, brings
Juliana into the cell, hoping to send Juliana to Earth permanently using
the same method. But after being injured, Thomas deactivates the tether,
which sends Sasha back to Earth.
Needless to say, Sasha is not
happy. In love with Thomas (with mixed feelings about Callum), and with
him injured in a cell with his brother and an angry Juliana, Sasha will
probably do anything to get back to Aurora.
I'm looking forward
to the next book, wondering if the grandfather knows anything about the
parallel universe, and how things will proceed. The characters were the
main drivers of this story, and while some of them fell a little flat
into the teenage frame (teens necking, unsupervised trouble in a Royal
household, etc...), most of it worked really well.